Invest Now, Save Later – The Beginnings of a Home Maintenance Checklist

I’m not sure that it’s really a great celebration of Fathers’ Day, but I got to spend some time on my roof this weekend. Earlier last week I was on the roof checking to make sure the gutters weren’t clogged. Between leaves, twigs, seed pods, and whatever else falls out of trees, my gutters can clog faster than the arteries of a 60-year old on a bacon-fat diet.

When checking the gutters, I noticed a rather distressing sight. While the nails holding one shingle in place should be covered (and thereby weatherproofed) by the shingle above them, a few nails were actually popping up through the shingle meant to cover them. It was almost like a little seedling popping its head up through the dirt for the first time…. except I’m happy to see my flowers coming up in the spring. This I was not happy to see.bent nails

Why such a big issue you ask? Great question. Any time you have a nail exposed, there is a small gap around the shank of the nail that provides a direct line of travel for water to move from your roof to your attic. If you aren’t aware, that is a bad place for water to be. It can lead to water damage of your ceilings, mold in the insulation, and even electrical issues if the water falls on wiring boxes for your ceiling lights or other fixtures. Worse news if you think like my wife, gaps in your roof tend to invite other inhabitants of the pest kind into your home. That’s all bad news.

My time this weekend was spent addressing those nasty little nails. It really wasn’t a big issue. I spent 20 minutes time on the roof and less than $5 on a tube of roof repair, also known as ‘blackjack’. Just a little squirt of the tar-like goo to the exposed nail heads and they should be sealed back up for a while. But they key phrase is “for a while”. It won’t be long and I will be replacing the shingles on my house.

Replacing the shingles is where it gets more painful. I did some quick calculations and I will be spending around $2,000 just buying the shingles. I will be installing them myself, so that saves some cost, although money is traded for sore muscles. I will also need to buy all of the nails ($30), tar paper for under the shingles ($200), ice guard for the edges ($125), lumber for the new fascia that is needed ($200), drip edge for the gable ends ($50), and disposal of old shingles ($50 doing it myself with my dad’s trailer). I am quite blessed as I have the knowledge and experience to do it myself and friends and family have the tools I need. If you haven’t been keeping a running total, that all adds up to $2,655. But as my projects tend to go, I’m sure there will be additional expenses that pop up.

That certainly is a lot of money. The reality is that this cost is considerably less than if I let it go, end up with water in my house, and end up dealing with repairs, mold mitigation, and who knows what else. I sure am glad I noticed those little nail heads sticking up before things got ugly.

June being Home Ownership Month, I wanted to spend a little time reminding you that home ownership is not necessarily easier than renting. Were I renting, I would simply call the landlord and let them deal with the roof. But there are certainly benefits to ownership that I am willing to trade that for.

If you have decided that home ownership is the choice for you, a little preventative maintenance will make the whole ownership experience much more enjoyable and, often, much less painful on the wallet. Here are a few things around the home to keep an eye on:

  • Roof – We’ve already talked about that one.
  • Gutters – Are they free of clogs and functioning correctly? These are what move the water away from the house and your basement when working properly.
  • Furnace/Air Conditioning – You can change your filters to keep the air flowing, but call a professional annually to inspect and service the furnace and A/C unit. This will keep them running efficiently and save you energy and larger repair costs.
  • Paint/Siding – Watch for peeling paint and holes in your siding. Again a water-intrusion issue, holes can also be a sign of unwanted house guests. Deal with it now before you have an extended family living in your walls.
  • Grade – Not referring to a report card, look at the slope of the ground and driveway around your home. Do they slope away from the house? Water runs down hill; why not help it on its way away from your home?
  • Plumbing – Check under your sinks and around your utilities and appliances occasionally for leaking or corroding pipes and fittings. If one springs a major leak while you are away, you are looking at serious water damage. On top of that, the city won’t deduct it from your monthly water bill.
  • Weather Seals – Particularly as we know winter will come again, make sure your doors and windows are well sealed when closed. It is often an easy fix, but can have significant impact on energy bills by eliminating cold drafts blowing the heat out of your home.
  • Trees/Bushes – Aside from clogging the gutters, they can rub or even bang against the house in heavy wind causing damage. Keep them trimmed and remove dead branches before they fall and give you a new skylight in the roof. I have even seen the roots of large trees planted right next to the house begin to push the foundation in!trimming branch

It may seem like quite the list, but it certainly isn’t exhaustive. It is generally easier and cheaper to address little issues before they turn into bigger issues. By taking care of these items early, you will actually have more time to enjoy that wonderful investment known as your home.

There are certainly more comprehensive maintenance checklists on the internet. If you are considering or are in the process of purchasing a home, we include a two-page list of maintenance items in our free Homebuyer Express classes. If you find yourself facing considerable home repair costs (if you own a home they will come), we can also work with you to set a budget in preparation for those events so that your are more financially ready.

My roof and I are certainly going to be getting to know each other better. But by taking care of it now, I will have more time later to build relationships with my family, friends, and our new puppy. Preventative maintenance is preventing further problems, more cost, and higher demand on your time. Take a little time now and save some more later.

written by Breck Miller

images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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